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Laura Deurmyer

Laura Deurmyer
December 22
Proud mom to a 3rd grade son, wife of an artist/ artisan, liberal, former urban professional marooned in the sands of West TX


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MARCH 4, 2011 12:10AM

Understand "pro-lifers" : how much infanticide is OK?

Rate: 14 Flag

Abortion rights have never been a real-life personal dilemma for me; I am pro-choice philosophically, but have no life experiences with which to support my position. 

Practically speaking, banning a procedure that's been performed since there were women is  only going to force it underground, which will get a lot of women hurt or killed.  (We can learn from the experience of Mexico, where back-alley abortions were the 4th or 5th leading cause of womens' deaths only a couple of years ago.)

Philosophically, since we don't have state-mandated religion in this country, I don't see how legislators can be allowed to answer the metaphysical question  “When does conscious life begin?” 

The pro-choice position is nothing less than a defense of our freedom from the beginnings of state-run religion. 

If we listen to the Pope, life begins the minute that there is a possibility of conception.  If we listen to science, life begins later - much later.  Our laws regulating later-term abortions tend to reflect our uneasy consensus that the truth is really somewhere in between.

 There was a lot of talk this past election season about some pro-life Republican/Tea Party candidates’ “extreme” pro-life positions.  The fact that we're even discussing this shows that many of us who are “pro-choice” don't even speak the same language as the hard-core “pro-life” crowd.

For many years, conservative candidates courting the Religious Right vote have professed to be “pro-life” but have also stated that they would preserve abortion availability for rape or incest victims who become pregnant as a result of being violated.  Those who would bar abortion in all circumstances were labeled as “extreme", even by the mainstream Right. 

But now the Right is freed by the Tea Party (in their minds anyway) of the need to be mainstream, to appeal to centrist voters.  This is their time to purify their official positions.  And any purification of a pro-life position will naturally tend towards what we view as the "extreme" policy - banning all abortion at all times.

These candidates are catering to supporters who believe that there is no such thing as a moral "choice" about abortion.  The pro-life position is about moral absolutes and moral certainty.  To a committed hard-line pro-life activist, abortion is not and never can be a “choice”.  To a strict pro-lifer, a person who has an abortion is roughly the moral equivalent of a person who takes a Saturday Night Special and blows a child's brains out. 

And actually, the extreme position in this instance is the position that makes consistent logical sense.  If you believe that abortion is baby murder, how much baby murder is going to be OK with you?  

A visceral, black-and-white position - "Horrific mass murder of adorable babies is wrong!"  - is likely to generate more ardent support than a cerebral, once-removed pro-choice argument - "It's my right to manage my own body, even though I'd never have an abortion personally..."  

That's why you see pro-life activists willing to be arrested, willing to commit murder and unwavering in their committment to their issue, making all of their voting choices based on that one factor.  I can't tell you how many people here in West Texas I've talked to who grasp that Republican economic policy doesn't benefit them, but who would never vote for a "baby killer" candidate.  Ever.  No matter what else was on the table.

Unless we pro-choicers can fully understand the other side of the abortion debate and can begin to articulate our position in a way that people will passionately care about, the vocal minority of voters who are purist pro-lifers will continue to dominate our campaign debates and impact our policy with their agenda.

After all, for most pro-choicers, abortion rights is a matter of principle.  For pro-lifers, it's literally life and death.

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I could never kill my child but I applaud the need for choice. The fact that we are going back to the caveman era kills me.
Rated with hugs for all the work and knowledge you put into this blog.
rated with hugs
Very well said. Thank you!!
I have always argued that the correct line to draw was in Roe v Wade in Blackmun's opinion although a line he then ignored: quickening, i.e. fetal movement.
Quickening was the precedent in Common Law, and which at 16 weeks is not that restrictive.
The Gutmacher Institute, which is hardly pro-life, would put the figure at the quickening standard at around 10 per cent of all abortions, and Rehnquist said in Roe that under all circumstances that the life of the mother has to be an exception, and would eliminate late term abortions that even pro-choice people often find problematic, and which is a standard that is defensible in terms of legal precedent rather than political preference, which therefore would impart stability to the law.
"Abortion at Common Law was a misdemeanor, although a heinous one, and a felony afterwards" was essentially the altered quote from Blackstone Commentaries on the Common Law that Blackmun partially cited in using the 'penumbra of rights," without the heinous part, and if he had stayed with that line, he would have avoided a lot of arguments later.
Linda - This is one issue where I can understand where the other side is coming from; I wish we could work more on figuring out how to take care of living children! Hug back!

Zanelle - No, thank you! Your piece was amazing, and so valuable being based on personal experience.

Don - I have heard that position espoused before. It's certainly one possible way to define the "line". It's impossible to have that sort of nuanced discussion with people who even view birth control as suspect. But I imagine that a good number of people would find it reasonable.
hear hear!
If I may make an odd comparison, the Merchant of Venice has the dilemma of extracting a pound of flesh without dropping any blood. It becomes an impossible scenario, and thus the payment cannot be made. Flesh and blood are impossible to separate in a living being, but they are considered two separate things.

An embryo from conception to about 3 months is a series of cell divisions and groupings, that when further developed, will either become a human being (if a a human embryo) or it will fail along the way in its divisions and expel. This happens so often that most women will likely have a miscarriage in their life and not know it, if miscarriage means "expelled embryo". At the 21st day after conception, the cells that will form a heart form a little tube, and those cells start to "beat". Somehow, this makes it a heart beat, although the cords of cells are not yet a heart. If formed properly, and allowed to grow, this protoheart will become a heart, which also cannot function unless blood flows through it. A heart with no blood is not alive, although the cells (myocardium) will continue to beat or quiver because they can do that even if one single cell is left isolated in a petrie dish. Other cells placed next to it will pick up the beat and they will synchronize. A heart cell is not a heart, a heart without blood is not alive.

What is at issue about life here, is that the human vessel carrying this fetus is very much alive, and fully formed, born and grown enough to become pregnant. She is a person. And this human vessel is the flesh in which the blood must flow in order for life to happen. A pound of bloody flesh does not a person make, and a ball of conception does not a life make. Somehow, we have become so obsessed with "purity" and "innocence" that we fantasize about these ideals of what makes a human precious forgetting those that are already here.

Until we had pregnancy tests, women weren't considered pregnant until quickening- when the baby started to kick and move around. After about 3 months or so.
Very well written! I was intrigued that by your definition I am not a hard line or extreme pro-lifer. And I thought I was so conservative. (Well, on OS anyway...)

I think that many people don't consider that there is actually a wide spectrum of beliefs among us and that simple caricatures do not always apply.

My feeling is that being pro-life means helping people in poverty, etc. more than it means screaming at women going into a clinic, and I have these crazy ideas that we can all find a common ground and work together for the same goals.

I honestly believe that we all have more in common than not, and I wish more people would try to understand "the other side" like you have done. When we really try to understand a different point of view, we can usually find some common ground and mutual respect.

also in TX,
kurt -r-
The Christian Right was not anti-abortion until the 70s- even Robertson wasn't. This is about MEN trying to control WOMEN, period. The poor credulous fools who, through complete brainwashing, ignorance and the resultant hate, buy into it, especially the women who do, are the biggest suckers on the planet.

You know you are indoctrinated when you mix the kool-aid yourself. But, what are the odds one of these would-be Einsteins studies history or science? Well, they better not do it in public school unless they want absolute censored gibberish passed on to them ...

"Religion is about Authority and Control." ... Stephen Hawking

Someone who believes a blubbering idiot over the world's leading astrophysicist is walking proof of credulity, and, natural selection.

Funny how the US States promoting this have the highest infant mortality rates- nearly 3rd World rates, what of that, moralists?
I have always hoped that I would never face this particular choice, but would hate to face it without having a choice. A few friends had abortions when they were pregnant and having the baby would not have been a workable option for them. I supported them through these crises.

A few years ago, when I was visiting with an older relative and learning from her extensive genealogy research, I also learned about a dark secret that had been hushed up in our family. In 1917, one of her aunts (call her Ada) died due to a botched back-alley abortion.

Ada lived in a small town. She was in a bad marriage and had three young children. Her husband left her for another woman. Ada had to find a job, and what she found paid very little. She had very few living relatives, so there was no substantial support network there. Her husband's family did not help her. She was barely able to keep herself and her children fed and clothed. Then she learned she was pregnant. There was no way she could support another child. She did not have the resources to sustain another pregnancy and give the child up for adoption. She went for a back-alley abortion and died of infection soon after. She was 27 years old.

Her children were taken in and raised by another family. They did not learn the truth about their mother's death until much later, and responded with intense anger.

If Ada had access to a safe, legal abortion, she might have survived to raise her two children. Perhaps she could have gone on to find a better life and later enjoyed time with her grandchildren. Instead, she's a nearly forgotten tombstone in a small town cemetery.

I do not want our country to regress to the reality that Ada and many others faced.
To add to what Osurfer said,
Is there any wonder why so many women are disgusted by and distrust men?
Control freaks, many of them.
If we, as Americans, allow this or some other issues to become political fodder; then we all lose. When a candidate voices his view as part of his political agenda; he shows vivid evidence of his lack of qualifications to represent the people. That is one reason we separate the church and state. End of political discussion, care to talk religion or philosopy; I'm in. I love America, and freedom; some issues are off the political agenda.
"That's why you see pro-life activists willing to be arrested, willing to commit murder and unwavering in their commitment to their issue," - what don't they get about willing to commit murder as pro-life? That strikes me as a whole new level of rationalizing denial.

Bonnie - That willingness to murder doctors and others in clinics has always struck me as the ultimate hypocrisy.